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176 of 192 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The fragility of our civilization
The first part of this brilliant collection of essays deals with art and literary criticism, whilst the second explores politics and the state of society. The thread that binds them is the cultural and moral decline of Western civilization.

The wide ranging topics encompass inter alia Princess Diana, Shakespeare, George Orwell, Virginia Woolf, DH Lawrence, the...
Published on 23 Sep 2005 by Pieter Uys

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars worryingly correct, depressing to read, needs hope
The information shared was interesting and worrying. But the lack of any options for change, however tentatively phrased, is an oversight. Perhaps the author thinks the changes needed are obvious.
Nevertheless this is a worthwhile read.
Published 13 days ago by Mr. R. C. Whitehand


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176 of 192 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The fragility of our civilization, 23 Sep 2005
By 
Pieter Uys "Toypom" (Johannesburg) - See all my reviews
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The first part of this brilliant collection of essays deals with art and literary criticism, whilst the second explores politics and the state of society. The thread that binds them is the cultural and moral decline of Western civilization.

The wide ranging topics encompass inter alia Princess Diana, Shakespeare, George Orwell, Virginia Woolf, DH Lawrence, the crassness of popular culture, the underclass in the UK, the legalisation of drugs and Muslim communities in the West.

With breathtaking eloquence and impressive insight, Dalrymple analyses these miscellaneous but interwoven subjects. His observations are interspersed by anecdotes from his experiences as a medical practitioner.

He blames the intellectual elites for much of the decay in the quality of life, arts and culture. In no small part this flows from their moral relativism and their denial of the existence of good and evil.

These liberal elites are quick to hail all forms of transgression while worshipping a twisted concept of tolerance and denying vice. Their hysterical insistence on "understanding" is becoming increasingly loud, but their relativism is remarkably selective. In extreme cases, it results in the total inversion of good and evil.

Thus we get the absurdity of political correctness. But PC is not only absurd, it is sinister too: assenting to untruth is to condone evil. It is easy to control a society of powerless liars.

The author's comparison of Aldous Huxley and George Orwell on the one side (constructive), with Virginia Woolf and DH Lawrence (destructive and foolish) is particularly thought provoking.

Dalrymple points out how an eerie silence results when for example, the feminist piety meets the piety of multiculturalism, like the reaction of Western Leftists when confronted with gender apartheid in the Third World. They simply ignore it.

He identifies the cause of much of the present mindset as an unholy alliance between libertarians who claim consumer choice as the ultimate answer, and leftists who believe that people have rights but no responsibilities.

Although the book deals with many unpleasant subjects, Dalrymple's insights are original and phrased in awesome prose. The book left me with a feeling of sadness, and a line from Leonard Cohen's song The Land Of Plenty came to mind: "For what's left of our religion, I bow my head and pray ..."

Having digested this gem, the interested reader might also wish to investigate The Dragons of Expectation by Robert Conquest, The West And The Rest by Roger Scruton, Intellectual Morons by Daniel Flynn and The New Thought Police by Tammy Bruce.
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80 of 88 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great analysis, 11 April 2007
By 
William Muehlenberg (Melbourne Australia) - See all my reviews
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Theodore Dalrymple is a top-notch commentator and a gifted essayist. The articles featured here represent some of his best and most recent writings. The volume is divided into two major sections: arts and letters, and society and politics.

He introduces this collection of essays with this line: "The fragility of civilization is one of the great lessons of the twentieth century." The line between civilization and barbarism is very thin, and needs to be zealously protected. Yet many of our intellectuals, argues Dalrymple, are either ignorant of the dividing line, or are doing their best to abolish that line altogether.

Generally these intellectual and political elites are of the left. But the right is not immune from such characters: "There has been an unholy alliance between those on the left, who believe that man is endowed with rights but no duties, and libertarians on the right, who believe that consumer choice is the answer to all social questions."

While civilisation must have its critics, it must also have its defenders and preservers as well. Dalrymple takes on the many critics of civilization, especially those of the utopian variety, who believe that an untried ideal is always better than a flawed but tried reality.

The cultural despisers and civilization corrupters are many within the field of literature and the arts. From Virginia Woolf to Versace, Dalrymple examines a number of leading figures who have left a legacy of destruction and despair. Much of what passes for art, fashion or literature today is simply an exercise in bashing the West and the championing of hedonism, nihilism and barbarism.

His chapters on society and politics are especially of interest. He covers topics as diverse as the problems of Islam, the sexualisation of society, the death of childhood and mass murderers. Most of these chapters are minor classics in their own right. His chapter on the folly of legalising drugs is a small masterpiece of social commentary, logical thought and fluid prose.

Part of the reason for Dalrymple's accurate and acute observations of the decrepit condition of much of modern life is the fact that he also a doctor. He has worked for many years in hospitals, prisons, and other social hot spots. He has witnessed first hand the tragic results of our social engineers and their distorted vision of reality. Both in the UK and overseas, he has encountered first hand the bitter fruit of dying civilizations.

His incisive and clearly penned assessments of the decline of Western culture are a much-needed antidote to the utopianism and elitism of so many of our social spin doctors. His writings are as important and prophetic as they are skilfully crafted.
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126 of 140 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unfortunately this is essential reading in Britain today, 17 April 2006
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Dalrymple (a nom de plume) analyses the anomie that has overtaken British culture(what little that is left of it) and attributes the decline of public and private morals to a combination of the ever growing power of the intellectual liberal left and the perverse generosity of the welfare state to those who are least deserving. The brilliance of his social observations, made while working as a prison psychiatrist (possibly in Birmingham- although that is never made explicit) and his currently unmatched skill as an essayist combine to give his writing a unique power and perspective. He has a huge following in the USA and chooses to publish his work there, which may explain why there are so few reviews on this site, compared to the scores on amazon.com.
Reading the British newspapers one comes across examples of the behaviors and life styles he describes every day of the week. Life at the bottom (the title of Dalrymple's other superb collection of essays) really is like that. Britain is now a crime ridden country where drugs and single parenthood/desertion are the lifestyle choice of most of our inner city dwellers whatever their racial origins. How has this come to pass in 50 years since the end of WWII, when Britain had the lowest crime rate and the highest employment rate in its history? No doubt the dystopian effects of welfare and the no-blame culture bear a high degree of responsibility; but I beg to suggest that Dalrymple does not give enough weight to the overwhelming, rapid and now total decline of mass employment opportunities in British manufacturing, which has now died so completely that we employ more people as museum attendants than we do in factories. Is his attribution of power to the leftist elite a kind of conspiracy theory? Well- maybe not; I for one choose not to make my name known as author of this review, since- being a prominent member of Dalrymple's profession still working in the UK I do not wish to come out just yet.
Read this book and despair. Then make plans to emigrate.
PS I asked TD himself at book launch about the decline in manufacturing as a contributor and he stuck to his line that it is the liberal left who have done most to destroy our society. At the time I found his response convincing but in retrospect still think that industrial collapse has a part to play. Discussions below about the Asian invasion are peripheral to the main thrust of the book which is emphatically not racist or anti immigration per se. Dalrymple has nothing but praise for the Asian family life values in contrast to their near total loss in the native underclass.
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61 of 68 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars fascinating and utterly horrifying, 29 Jun 2006
It's always horrible (but alas, painfully necessary)to read other peoples' observations on what is going on in Britain today. I can't really add any further information to the reviews already submitted here but I would say this is a very eye opening account. Anyone who is interested in the problems that are besieging Britain will find this very interesting indeed. I would also recommend his other book: "The Worldview that Makes the Underclass". Both are extremely informative, totally depressing and brutally honest. How I wish the observations made in here weren't true but they are. Credit to the author for making these observations known. It may make some people in Britain wake up to what is going on.
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69 of 77 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How could you argue with this?, 9 April 2006
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I purchased this book, largely on the strength of the reviews, but was predisposed toward scepticism. However, I found myself progressively won over by Dalrymple's articulate prose and remorselessly logical arguments.
I would go as far as to say that this is one of the most powerful books I have read in recent years. I am left wondering why no-one of repute is debunking the tidal wave of politically-correct nonsense that our media and politicians are awash with. Only today (09/04/06), I have read of a fine high-court judge being pilloried by the unions for 'racism' because he has had the temerity to suggest that a ten-year old boy should not be brought before him by the CPS for uttering a racial term which he has probably heard on the lips of an adult. I can sense Dalrymple's anger, and understand it perfectly. Someone do something!
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59 of 66 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well written but disturbing, 3 Aug 2006
By 
P. Brooks (Isle of Man, British Isles) - See all my reviews
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This is a series of short essays, each complete in itself. This makes for comfortable and conveniently digestible reading. This is fortunate because both the analysis of the individual aspects of contemporary culture, and conclusions drawn, are generally depressing; so it is a book you might want to read in small chunks.

However, the lucid prose make it both easy to read and yet thought provoking.

The author applies a fine and perceptive mind to the current general debasement of our culture and values. You are likely to be aware of and concerned about many of the issues he raises - but he gives a fresh and bracing perspective that is drawn from his own extensive 'hands on' interaction with the seamier side of our culture. His 'credentials' for writing derive from his many harrowing adventures as a doctor of trying to repair the individual tragedies of those caught in the sub-strata. The book made me grateful that I could learn without the pain of direct experience. Recommended reading if you want to understand the slow motion wreck of Western Civilization and prepare for the probable final acceleration into the abyss.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Grim but essential reading, 25 May 2010
By 
Aquinas "summa" (celestial heights, UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Our Culture, What's Left of it: The Mandarins and the Masses (Paperback)
This collection of evil covers disparate topics but what unites them all is the author's search for the foundation of culture and civilisation coupled with his observations as to how Western Civilisation, particularly the UK, has gone off the rails, the foundations having been undermined by the intelligentsia.

Thus we get a vast range of topics: the downsides of the benefits culture, Shakespeare on evil, what was wrong with Virginia Woolf, the moral decline evidenced by the acceptance of DH Lawrence as a writer of literature, Art losing its way, Paris and its no go zones, Havana and the evil of communism - Marx and Turgenev are nicely contrasted. But we also get treated to contemporary themes - the mass hysteria over the death of the Princess of Wales, Drugs and why they ought not to be legalised and the crisis in Islam heralding its downfall rather than its revival and the eating habits of the poor across different cultural communities in the UK and two very unpleasant chapters on the Wests and Ian Huntley (not recommended for the squeamish).

Common themes reflected in the essays are:

i) man's freedom - we are not predetermined we have choices - the all too easy substitution of depression for simple unhappiness i.e. treating everything as medical rather than accepting that the choices one makes in life affects one's well being. But, as we all have a right to do as we please, this right supersedes the making of any judgement whether acting in such a way is a good or bad thing.

ii) Related to i), we are not determined solely by our materiality: "Those who think that an understanding of the double helix is the same as an understanding of ourselves are not only prey to an illusion but are stunting themselves as human beings, condemning themselves not to advance in self-understanding but to a positive retrogression".

iii) the elevation into our society of non-judgementalism as the gold standard of morality: "When young people want to praise themselves, the describe themselves as "nonjudgemental". For them the highest form of morality is amorality.

iv) the line separating good from evil goes right through every human heart.

v) it is only by becoming civilised that men become fully human and yet even the notion of civilisation is rejected by the intelligentsia

vi) the vulgarisation and unbridled hedonism now prevalent in UK society - lives lived in the shadow of immediate gratification and coarseness - "a life devoted to instant gratification produces permanent infantalisation - "Adolescents are precociously adult; adults are permanently adolescent" - hospitals "where the dying usually depart this world to the sight and sound of drivelling television soap operas". As someone who is dying I found that a particularly harrowing thought.

vii) the more man controls nature the less he controls himself

viii) the loss of Art's foundations and "the romantic cult of the original artist, divorced from his predecessors" leading to the nonsensical notion that change equals progress. "the deliberation adoption of ugliness and bad taste which characterises British popular culture"

ix) the damaging effect of political correctness - "the violence that it does to people's souls by forcing them to say or imply what they do not believe but must not question - we have willingly adopted the mental habits of people who live under a totalitarian dictatorship"

x) the state as patron giving us pocket money after taking every thing in taxes - the degradation and lack of self respect engendered by the benefits culture.

xi) the burgeoning of the celebrity culture which is a "disguised worship of our own, generally uncultivated, tastes and desires"

xii) the loss of stoicism and self-deprecation by the Brits and the replacement by sentimentalism and coarse shallowness.

xiii) "Evidence of sexual chaos is everywhere" and "gross precocity followed by permanent adolescence and a premature world-weariness" - "personal whim" determining sexual conduct.

xiv) the tensions within Islam due to the fact that Islam was founded on the basis that spiritual and secular authority would be one, inevitably leading to tensions for adherents in the West where there is a clear divide between Church and State. The unwillingness of muslims to take on board criticism of the Koran or of Islamic culture. The author notes and this surprised me that muslims are more widely represented in British jails than are Hundus and Sikhs. Curiously the author sees the upsurge in violence as the beginning of decline in Islam rather than its growth.

Anyway, I would highly recommend this book - the author is a deep thinker and apparently has no axe to grind -for one, he is not a theist and this, in my view, makes his comments more important as the represent an objective analysis of the state of the nation.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Left triumphant, 11 Jan 2014
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Dr. Dalrymple would I think broadly agree that what we are seeing in Britain, though it is by no means confined to this country as a brilliant essay of his on France makes clear, is the triumph of the Left in all its perverted ideology and at every level of our society. The institutions of the country are marinated with marxist ideology to an extent that is simply breathtaking when you consider where we were even 50 years ago. So, we have judges talking about 'racist' crimes, politicians who speak of Britain having a superiority complex for having won the war, the open balkanization of a number of our cities by radical Islam. All that matters is to be free, free to be me. His chilling essays on the Soham murderer and the unspeakable West couple show how this void at the heart of our collapsed culture is now operating. One could now add also the Savile business, with the almost certain knowledge that the institutional elite is involved and at the highest levels.
A great writer, and the best essayist in our language.
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17 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dr Daniels over-eggs his pudding, 26 Oct 2008
By 
T. Burkard (Norwich, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Our Culture, What's Left of it: The Mandarins and the Masses (Paperback)
The essays in this book are decidedly mixed: Dalrymple's arguments about the debilitating effects of the welfare state are utterly compelling. I would dearly love to hear him in a public debate with, say, Will Hutton--or anybody else who really believes that the problems of the poor can be solved by giving them money and robbing them of responsibility for their own existence.

Unfortunately, Dr Daniels (his real name) has a disturbing tendency to over-generalise from his own experience. As a prison doctor, his view of the underclass is hopelessly skewed. I actually know a number of people who have grown up in some of Norwich's worst estates, and many who still live on them. Although there is no denying that the abuses Dr Daniels describes happen with disturbing frequency, most of our so-called underclass still have normal aspirations. Most ghetto mums don't want their kids growing up living the same lousy lives they endure, but they themselves have been so badly educated in our post-Plowden schools that they are in a poor position to help them. When I taught basic literacy skills in a Norwich comprehensive, we invited parents to come into the school and work with us to improve their children's reading and spelling--and the response of mums (and even dads) from the roughest estates was most impressive. These parents stuck with it through thick and thin, and were delighted to see their own literacy skills improve.

Dalrymple's arguments against the legalisation of drugs is based upon the dubious proposition that use would spiral out of control if they were cheap and legal. He uses the analogy of British construction workers in Africa who were allowed to buy as much spirits as they wished for about a pound per litre, and who were almost permanently pickled. This is just plain silly. Many men choose to work overseas because they are inclined to drink, and because they lack the self-control needed to stay married and raise kids. Like most happily-married middle-class men, I can afford as much booze as I care to drink, and it has been ages since I drank a whole bottle of wine in one night. I know young people who could get me any drugs I want. If you gave the stuff away, I wouldn't touch it; I grew up in the hippie era, and believe me I've had quite enough of it.

There are a lot of other things in this book that I disagree with, but it is exceptionally well-written and provocative. He contrasts the open corruption in Italian government compared to the institutional and intellectual corruption of British government, much to the advantage of the former. It's just a pity that Dr Daniels is so remorselessly gloomy--but then he chose to be a prison doctor.
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1.0 out of 5 stars A dangerous method, 13 April 2014
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Dalrymple links poverty to lack of virtue, based on his experiences as a psychiatrist in a Birmingham prison. It's hardly a representitive sample, but it serves as the basis for the polemic that follows. His view seems to be that poor people are feckless at best, and evil at worst. This line of thinking has a long tradition in reactionary thought, the idea being that people find themselves in the strata of society in which they deserve to be. Years ago it was the 'divine providence' argument which served as justification for the feudal system. The unspoken implication of this argument is that powerful, well-educated, wealthy people are innately virtuous. However, the crime statistics do not support this, and it soon becomes clear that this is just a series of class-based rants masquerading as rational thought. The truth is there are problems at all levels of society, and portraying the poorest and the weakest as inherently bad people is simply wicked and dangerous.
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Our Culture, What's Left of it: The Mandarins and the Masses
Our Culture, What's Left of it: The Mandarins and the Masses by Theodore Dalrymple (Paperback - 1 Mar 2007)
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